The recession may have cast a gloom over the student population, with rising unemployment even among those who are well educated. But remarkably, there is still a shortage of skilled Irish workers in some areas. Construction and many other sectors may hav

Learning about where the new jobs are coming from

The recession may have cast a gloom over the student population, with rising unemployment even among those who are well educated. But remarkably, there is still a shortage of skilled Irish workers in some areas. Construction and many other sectors may have fallen off the edge of a cliff, but there is still a demand from employers for graduates with specific skills.

While tens of thousands of employees are laid off among all sections of society every month, the computer sector is still struggling to find suitably qualified employees in this country.

"People with qualifications in computing are needed in every sector of the economy,'' says Jim Friars, director of the Irish Computer Society. "The demand is only likely to increase in the coming years as information technology affects more areas of our lives.''

Other likely growth areas in employment, according to FAS and Engineers Ireland, include healthcare, engineering, alternative energy and the updating of infrastructure to comply with environmental standards. Surprisingly, given the effects of recession on restaurants, FAS also reports a shortage of qualified chefs.

Pauline O'Loughlin of Ernst & Young recently said 70pc of technology firms believe there is currently a skills shortage.

"They are looking elsewhere to fill roles and Ireland is competing with a lot of locations -- particularly the US and Australia -- to get talent to come here.''

Pauline O'Loughlin said Ireland needed to "upskill'' local talent in order to compete for these jobs

"There has to be a re-education at secondary level to let pupils and career guidance teachers know that there are major career opportunities in the technology sector.''

Engineers Ireland and other bodies have made strenuous efforts to attract students to engineering, a profession that still has job vacancies. "We are keen to get the message to students that there are companies out there who are crying out for good students,'' says Margie McCarthy of Engineers Ireland.

"If you think of the big names in computers that are operating here and are such an important part of our economy, you can see how there are still big opportunities.''

The traditional idea of an engineer may be a man working on a vast suspension bridge or a dam, but Margie McCarthy is keen to emphasise the profession's diversity. At Steps.ie, a website which promotes engineering to schoolchildren, pupils are told how a career in engineering involves anything from aviation and water supplies to graphics in computer games and movies.

Margie McCarthy says the green agenda will result in many new jobs for qualified engineers over the coming years. "There are all sorts of projects that require engineering skills. They include the upgrading of water and waste disposal facilities, wind and tidal energy, and biofuels.''

A recent report on the computer sector by the Expert Group on Future Skills Needs said demand for computer skills is set to exceed the number of qualified workers in the economy. The report said there were not enough school leavers choosing to study computing and electronic engineering. Because there are not enough qualified graduates with hi-tech skills, much of the Irish-based workforce will continue to come from abroad, the report predicted.

Martin Shanahan of the government skills agency Forfas said computer engineers and electronic engineers are in short supply .

Mr Shanahan said the announcement of 400 jobs by the computer gaming company Goa underlines the importance of information technology to the economy. He also highlighted other areas where well-qualified workers are likely to be needed

"In the pharmaceutical and medical devices sector, there are still skills shortages for those with an understanding of design engineering, good management practice and quality assurance. Those people that combine engineering, clinical and business skills will always be in short supply."

"Even in financial services, where growth in employment seems unlikely in the short term, we still need to develop people with very high level mathematical and quantitative skills," Mr Shanahan said.

"This type of skills base takes a long time to form, so we should be actively pursuing it now. Regulation and compliance and risk management related skills have been identified for some time as a need and have become more important now. It seems likely that there will be more opportunities in energy and environment related activity,'' he added.

Forfas is keen to emphasise that the better educated and trained students are, the more likely it is that they can avail of job opportunities when they arise.

"Many of those entering college this year will be coming out into a very different labour market in three to four years,'' says Mr Shanahan.

"It is important that students, their parents and adults currently in the workforce familiarise themselves with where the opportunities are and also where they are likely to be. We can tell from the CSO data that those with lower levels of skill are more likely to be made unemployed. We need to ensure that we give every opportunity to those within the workforce to educate and train them further," added Mr Shanahan.

campus poll

At Campus we asked you what you though about being a graduate or emerging graduate in this current climate. Is emigration the only answer? Are there still jobs? Is continuing to study the answer? What about Volunteer work?

Here's what you said...